It's that time of year again, time for high school seniors to choose where they'll continue their education. Fresh out of the college application process just a year ago, I remember well the uncertainness of acceptances and then the decision that looms over you like a dark cloud until May 1st. Back then it seemed to complex between the financials and housing, so I've broken up factors of my own college decision-making process, in hopes that it will make your decision clearer and more transparent.
When you graduate, are jobs readily available around the school? Does the surrounding area provide options for entertainment and a way to escape on the weekends?
Are their trains, buses, or subways that can provide an easy and affordable way to get home and to get to surrounding attractions. Public transit should be a priority especially if parking for freshman is limited or unavailable.
Prestige of your desired major
Is the school known for your planned major? Does it have a variety of minors and the flexibility to change majors?
Does greek life monopolize a large part of the social life on campus? Does the university plan events to interact with fellow students and meet new people? Is there a large commuter population that may go home on weekends?
Will the name of the school really be worth the debt you might rack up? Does the school offer financial aid, work-study, or scholarships? Is the degree worth the time you'll spend paying it off?
Freshman Retention Rate
What is the percentage of students who return their sophomore year? How does this reflect the first year experience?
Student to Faculty Ratio
What is the student to faculty ratio? Do the classes mostly consist of large lectures? Do they include smaller discussion groups to ask specific questions?
Job and Internship Opportunities
Does the school work internships into the curriculum? What is the percentage of students employed six months after graduation?
Are you able to take classes that interest you? Is the curriculum rigid?
Meal Plans and Dining Options
Are their dining options flexible both in and out of the dining halls? Are their accessible dining options off campus?
Are there a variety of clubs and activities to meet people and take a break from academics? Are their clubs pertaining to your major that will build your resume?
What division is the school in? Do the sports interfere with academics? Are there club and intramural options?
Is there a strong police presence on campus? Is the school situated in a dangerous area? Is there a blue light system?
Alumni and Networking
Are the school alumni active? Does the school host events to connect with them and explore possible job opportunities?
Job Opportunities on Campus
Is there a way to earn money on campus? Are the hours flexible around an academic schedule?
You shouldn't expect every school to check all of these boxes, but it should fulfill all of your priorities. Consider which of these is the most important to you, and always weigh the costs and benefits to make sure you'll be happy there, while also not accumulating a large amount of student debt.